Why Olympic swimmer Lisa Curry took a year off exercise
It’s fair to assume Lisa Curry would have no trouble staying fit and active — she’s an Australian sporting icon who competed in three Olympic Games and won a slew of international medals.
But Curry, now 56, says the truth is quite different.
“In the last three years, I’ve met my now husband-to-be — we’ve been travelling a lot, sleeping in, and going out for dinner,” she told Coach. “It’s got to the point where in the last year I’ve done pretty much no exercise.”
While she’s happy, relaxed and at a “really good” point in her life, Curry admitted she has missed feeling fit and strong.
“My jeans are a bit tight, there’s a bit of a menopausal belly,” she said. “I’ve got about six to eight kilos to lose, and for me that’s a lot. Most people probably wouldn’t see it — but I see it, and I feel it.”
When she spoke to Coach, the former Olympian was one week into a new training regimen designed to lose the weight, get her health back on track, and “find Lisa Curry again”.
She recruited four friends who are personal trainers to give her “a kick up the butt”, and has embarked on a strength-building program that mixes in high-intensity interval training — and says the hard work has already been worth it.
“I’m sore and I’m a bit tired and I have jelly legs when I walk down the stairs, but you know what?” she said. “I feel good, and exercise gives you more energy, and when you feel good you make better eating choices.”
Curry added that she was “so exhausted” after a brief return to the pool, which seems like a remarkable thing for a champion swimmer to say — but she points out that, when it comes to fitness, you use it or you lose it.
“You lose the feel for the water,” she said. “It doesn’t take long to get it back but … the key is not to stop. When you stop for too long it’s really hard to get back into it.”
Her training isn’t just about getting her fitness back, but also getting herself into a regular exercise routine.
“You don’t get results from anything unless you’re consistent,” she says, a point made repeatedly by fitness experts. “If you want results, it’s what you do most of the time, not some of the time.”
She added that the principle also applies when it comes to nutrition, where there are no quick fixes.
“People go, ‘I’ve tried this diet or that diet, hoping it’s going to be a magic pill, [and it didn’t work]’,” she said. “But they only tried it for a week — nothing happens in a week. You have to give yourself anywhere between three and five months of being dedicated and committed.”
Curry believes too many people “just talk themselves out of” exercise, finding excuses not to do it — which is why she says it’s so important to work out with supportive people, be they trainers, family members or friends.
“One of the girls [who I train with] this morning said, ‘Good job Lis!’,” she said. “It just meant everything to me, because you don’t get it often so you need to be around the right people too.”
If you want results, it’s what you do most of the time, not some of the time
Her return to fitness after a long break has given her valuable insight into what it’s like for those who are new to exercise.
“I feel like a beginner at the moment. I’ve got to take it slow, and build up,” she says. “A lot of people say, ‘Right, I’m going to go to the gym every single day this week’. But that’s not realistic when you start out. Aim for twice a week, and do twice a week for a couple of weeks, then go three times a week. Do that for a couple of weeks, then increase it to four times.”
A major hurdle for her were hormonal changes that left her feeling tired, moody and cranky. But she’s adamant women can take control of their hormones and bodies, rather than being ruled by them.
“Hormonally speaking, even more of a concern to women than their hormones being out of whack and being moody and tired, is their weight gain that comes with it,” said Curry, who has partnered with Happy Healthy You, which provides women with an online assessment of their hormonal health.
“I completely get it, but I want to prove that my weight gain is not just menopausal — it’s because I’ve been lazy, and having a good time, and eating too much of the wrong things, and sleeping in.”